Keeping kids entertained is easy at the Anantara Vacation Club (AVC) in Mai Khao!
We’ve been expats in Asia for 20+ years and for the last 4 years we’ve lived in Bangkok. We’ve been to Phuket at least a dozen times and still love it. Since we have 4 young boys, we are always looking for family friendly hotels and the AVC Mai Khao is definitely is one of our favourites. But if you’re single or a couple who want to go excursions into town and other beaches, go shopping and explore the nightlife, this is NOT your hotel.
We love the Anantara Resorts as they have more spacious rooms and often multi-room suites. Our 2-bedroom apartment suite was about 1300 sq ft (bigger than most Singapore 3 BR apartments) which was not directly above the pool (which we prefer as it’s more quiet). There was a kitchen with a big fridge/freezer, 2 burner induction stovetop, nespresso and microwave which is fantastic for guests who want to cook a few meals or with little ones it’s so important to be able to make baby food or reheat and store milk in a proper fridge. Having a washer/dryer is also such a bonus for parents of babies. Thankfully mine are older but I try to pack as lightly as possible so I usually bring quick dry clothes and do 1-2 loads while on holiday if possible. There was also a lovely 8-seat dining table. There’s plenty of restaurants in the hotel or the Turtle Village next door had several restaurants so we didn’t cook. It was nice to have the big fridge where we could chill wines and waters. There is a 3+2 seater sofa and a TV in the living area. There was a great patio area with a chaise and a table with 2 chairs that overlooked the playground. In the morning the boys would wake up and sometimes sit outside reading.
On one far end of the suite was the spacious master bedroom with a king bed, writing desk, chaise, TV and 2 large wardrobes. The master bathroom was good size with a bathtub that fit all 4 boys, shower and 2 vanity sinks. Although the 2 rooms were adjacent, the shared wall was where the bathrooms for both rooms were located so we didn’t hear them chatting before bed or more importantly when they woke up. The boys’ bedroom had 2 single beds. The singles were wide so each pair of twins slept tops & tails and were very comfortable. The air-con was strong and silent, beds were incredibly comfortable, blackout curtains were amazing, and it was so peaceful and quiet that we slept in until nearly 8 which is quite a luxury when they usually get up around 6:30-7am at home. They also have 1-BR suites as well as 1-2BR pool villas.
We love that the resort is only a 15 minute drive from the airport. When you have 4 kids that just want to run around after a flight, it’s nice that the hotel is so close. The hotel is not on the beach but they have buggies that can take you there or bike there in less than 3 minutes. My little ones just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels so they loved biking to the beach. The bike rental is conveniently located in front of the Kids Club. Mai Khao Beach is Phuket’s longest beach and not so wide so there are no restaurants and bars along the stretch where the hotel is located. We were there at the end of the rainy season and the seas were still quite rough but the boys loved jumping over the waves and getting knocked over when they sat in the shallows. You definitely need to watch them while they do this but they spent hours doing this and loved it. We heard from the staff that outside the rainy season the seas are quite calm and they set up sea kayaks, SUPs, hobies and windsurfers on the beach and are free for guests to use.
Just opposite the resort is Turtle Bay Village which has a few nice shops, restaurants and a small, well-stocked but expensive mini-mart in the basement. My boys like the Swensen’s for ice cream and we occasionally grab a coffee at the Coffee Club which are things we do in Bangkok but didn’t notice how much more expensive it was there. There is a Family Mart further up the road which is cheaper but for mixers like Coke, soda water and juice, I was happy to pay more at the mini-mart as it’s closer. There’s also ATMs and a money changer.
There’s a taxi monopoly in Phuket so if you want to explore other beaches/areas, then I would suggest you rent a car. We always rent a car as it’s inexpensive and convenient. Some agencies will deliver the car to the hotel although we always pick ours up at the airport.
The resort grounds are expansive. There are 2 buildings which has 6 floors, houses their 1-2 BR apartment suites. I think on the ground floor the suites also have pools. In the center of the resort is an enormous pool that if filled with toys and floaties as well as a lovely swim up bar. There really wasn’t a shallow area for young kids to swim safely in which is surprising considering everything else is so child friendly. Adjacent to the pool is the building which has the Fitness Center on the upper floor and the Kids/Teen Club on the bottom floor. In front of the fitness center there is a large, sandy kids playground with a slide. Thankfully it’s shaded by sails so that it doesn’t get direct sun.
To get to the beach, it’s about a 10 minute walk or about 5 if you go along the road adjacent to the Marriot. You can also call for a buggy or ride a bike to get there. There is also a petanque lawn and a climbing wall and basketball area which are all fun for the kids.
I was a bit confused at the 3 resorts clustered around the beach and what facilities are shared and what aren’t. I think all the buggies were the same and no specifically branded so hard to tell if it was Marriot or Anantara or AVC. One time we got dropped off at the beach by the buggy as I had my tripod and heavy camera equipment and then my boys & husband walked back while I waited for a buggy. I walked up towards the path that we took when we biked from AVC but when I called (there was a small phone booth) where the buggy dropped you off the operator said you have to call the Anantara, this is the Marriot. Seems strange that the buggy the day earlier dropped us off here, think the driver just wanted to take the shortest path as when we were dropped off with the rest of my family we took the longer way through the Anantara Phuket Villas which by the way is a separate hotel to the AVC. The day earlier as I waited for my husband to finish playing on the beach with the boys I went to relax by the pool which was a part of the Anantara Villas. When the boys rushed back from the beach and into the pool, one of the staff asked are you staying here. I told them we were staying at the AVC and they said we weren’t allowed to use the pool. I thought this was quite strange as I saw a family at the pool at the kids club and the AVC pool earlier that day as my boys recognized them. When I asked the staff they said but guests there would use the AVC facilities but not vice versa.
Restaurants & Bar:
There are 2 restaurants on-site and 3 more at the Anantara Villas next door. The restaurants are on the expensive side but the quality is good and portions generous. One night we ate at Chaam which happened to have a Mediterranean Buffet theme that night. For every adult dining a child eats free which is wallet-friendly for families and kids eat for ½ price. There was a good selection of mains and a pasta bar. The boys went a little crazy at the dessert area with chocolate fondue, ice cream and about 10 different cakes/sweets. My boys’ favorite part about dining outside at night is that they could catch toads. They must have caught 5-6 of them, giant ones!
The swim up bar is fantastic! Great to be able to relax with a drink while you watch the kids and jump in if needed. Good selection of cocktails and a decent selection of wines by the glass. There are only about 6 seats and half the time there are people there doing selfies so be warned. Someone later told us about their fantastic happy hour, 1 for 1 cocktails between 6-8pm, shame we missed this.
A large selection Thai & Western dishes, fruit, juices, yogurts and salad fixings as well as egg and noodle station. There was also plenty of kid- friendly choices like pancakes/waffles, cereals and pastries. The restaurant seems on the small side compared to how many guests were there. The seating outside is lovely with views over the pool but can get hot as there isn’t much shade.
My boys gave it a 6 hands out of 8 rating. They loved movie night by the pool. Twice a week they set up a giant movie screen on the far end of the pool and show a movie. During our stay they played the Jungle Book. Some of my boys were sitting on floaties in the pool while some were relaxing in the sun loungers. I think the movie started at 6 so we just ordered their dinner by the pool and they also served free popcorn.
The kids club is fantastic! They had an extensive activity list. During our stay, they went rock climbing, kickboxed during their muay Thai training session and competed with other kids in a petanque contest. All the staff at the kids club were great. Jenny in particular was always so friendly and asking about the boys, very helpful and always eager to involve the kids in activities and crafts.
Gym: The gym has lovely views overlooking the pool which is also helpful if you’re trying to keep an eye out for children playing in the pool. It’s on the small side but had all the equipment you’d find in bigger gyms. I also joined a yoga class and a pilates class. I did the morning sessions, obviously too early for most guests as I was either the only in the class or with 1 other guest. Both of the fitness instructors Sa Sa and Bryan were great and helpful throughout the class as I had a sore back.
Service was excellent, 5*! The check-in/check-out process was efficient and quick. Since I had a rental car, one of their staff led me in his buggy to the other car park that was closer to the room. He then helped me with our luggage. The restaurant, pool, housekeeping and hotel staff were all helpful, friendly and always willing to lend a hand when they saw us with our 4 young kids.
Special thanks to K. Chan and the concierge team. We had requested to do a tour of Phang Nga Bay and asked they help us find a company that could take our family on a private tour as we didn’t want to end up on a boat with 50 Mainland Chinese tourists. Our longtail trip of the islands was fantastic, definitely a highlight of our trip.